Planning to not plan (too much)

This is a blog I mean to write early last week but, as with all plans around Christmas and New Year’s Day, it would have been best if I had made no plans at all. In kicking off 2015 I want to look back at 2014 which has been a mixed year of experiences for me. I will throw some thoughts onto my page here:

Broader reading

After a few years of not working in a library (and being a library researcher and educator instead) I now have a casual librarian position in a library far from home. The far from home is significant as I am reading on my commute which is blissful. But most importantly, I am reading more broadly. I had not realised the degree with which my reading narrows when I am a buyer of (romance) fiction. I have a limited book buying budget and I am averse to experimenting with my limited funds. I also stopped using my libraries regularly (shocking revelation!) through sheer laziness so being back in a public library has been wonderful. Continue reading

Advertisements

40000 tweets and counting

I have tweeted out 40000 tweets in the last 4 years and 4 months and I need a scapegoat.

10011100010000002 tweets

That’s right. 5 million characters. Yes – I can count. Really it could be 5600000 characters but not all my tweets use all 140 characters so I am rounding down.

I needed to blame someone for this landmark number – I cannot be held accountable. For many non-tweeting readers this will seem a phenomenal amount of tweets. Some might even say a phenomenal waste of time. For me, it has turned my life around.

Previous to twitter I considered myself connected. I had Facebook, I had worked in hypermedia engineering research, I had run a virtual library and written HTML coding, I used ALIA elists, weRead book aggragator and subscribed to Fiction-L. I was there – ha! I was so faraway from there. I may have worked at these things, I may have known they existed but I did not engage with them. They were peripheral. Twitter immersed me to an online life.

@merejames is to blame.

In February 2009 I had myself booked in to go to the inaugural Australian Romance Readers Convention. My friend Meredith had come over and suggested I live tweet from this convention. “It’s a thing” she told me. She was right.

@Bookthingo is to blame.

Sometime in 2007 (? could it be earlier) I recommended some Thomas the Tank Engine books and a healthy dose of Suzanne Brockmann to a borrower called Kat Mayo. I have no idea if she enjoyed the Thomas books but Brockmann started our romance as librarian and borrower to dueling tweeps to friends that go on date nights. We both tweet and we both agree on the “vomit” book.

@cbishops is to blame.

One of my first follows and follow backs, my friend Chris Bishops. He was a serious business tweep. He tweeted serious digital media information links. I thought “I better tweet serious library information links”. We had opposing views, and long debates, on the role of libraries in the digital media world and publishing which kept my *snort* altruistic librarian self grounded. Chris passed away nearly two years ago yet I still can’t bring myself to unfollow him.

@oldbitey and @fangbooks are to blame.

The two/three of them. I have no idea when they started #badsongfriday and it has been several years since we played but they both wasted my Fridays. No housework was done, no reading, no cooking all in aim of trying to outdo each other with awful music. BEST FRIDAYS EVAH!

@Huzbah/@The_JohnElliott is to blame.

Best husband in the world. And best kids in the world. I think the three of them were more than happy for me to hangout on twitter while they watched rugby league without my whining that I was bored. And they also allow me to tweet out funny things they say.

Twitter introduced me to @SarahFrantz, @EricSelinger and the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance in 2009. An idea twigged in me. Maybe, just maybe I could return to study romance fiction in libraries. I hadn’t considered it before our exchanges. I blame them too.

The readers I met put me to shame. I thought I read a lot but then I met online readers. They are a scary lot. The most awesome @MargReads. I am in awe of her. I love her blogs, I love her Library Loot event and I love that she has spent four years running one of the best online book discussion groups – the weekly South Pacific Book Chat #spbkchat. I blame Marg.

Actually, I blame you all. I blame everyone of the follows, unfollows and tweets and retweets over the past four years. You grabbed my attention and it has hardly wavered.

From blaming library engagement with @ellenforsyth, @janholmquist and @genrelibrarian to blaming romance tweeps @THRJessica, @VictoriaDahl, @Liz_Mc2, @JanetNorCal, @MerrianW, @AnnaCowan, @jodiMcA, @j_aallan who ask serious questions and discuss sparkly ballz, virgins, cacophony, chest hair, Abbey Girls and many other eyebrow raising topics. They are to blame.

How do I list all the other fabbo fabulosum tweeps that I have had countless conversations with? The wonderful tweeps I have met, several of whom have become dear friends. The authors, editors, bookshop owners, grammarians, publishers, teachers, librarians and fictional characters. I can’t do justice to them here. If I have not listed your name it is not from forgetfulness but for lack of space. I say go to my twitter page and follow all 540 of them for I blame you all.

I spent 2009 through to 2012 upping my reading ante. Going from a reasonable 50 books a year to a mind-boggling 365 last year. My print reading diminished yet the volume of news and journal reading I was reading via Twitter feeds was huge. Professionally, I was livetweeting all the seminars and conferences I was attending, I was doing reading challenges, like in April 2010 when I did a bookbinge month and read 23 books in 31 days and my children learnt that Brinner is a thing.

In 2010 I could no longer contain my ideas to tweets. The 140 characters were too restrictive. I turned to blogging. And then at the end of 2011 the blog was not enough. I returned to university to undertake a Masters by research at the University of Technology, Sydney. And dammit, that too was not enough. Next month, I am filling out all the paperwork to transfer from a masters program to a doctoral program.

I BLAME TWITTER.

Eye candy, chest hair and the category romance cover

I love my category romance fiction books and, along with my love for the stories, I also love the schmaltzy cover art. For what can be more soothing at the end of a tiring day, than an easy-on-the-eyes image of a handsome man on the cover of your current read.

Mills and Boon Covers

Mills and Boon Covers

But for many years, I would get annoyed at the waxed, glistening pecs on a torso on so many covers.  Now, unless the book is about a male model/exotic dancer/personal trainer, I prefer the cover to reflect the character. You know, white coats for the medics, suits for the business man, kanduras for the sheiks, western shirts for the cowboys and a black T-shirt for the firies. And though I know that some readers like to see the muscle bound man on the cover, I find it very hard to reconcile myself to the hardened Montana cowboy or Australian outback station owner driving/flying to Helena or Barcaldine for their monthly manscaping appointment as it is contradictory to the character I am reading about. And the reality is, most men have chest hair. And it is lovely and it is normal.

I often wonder about historians in 3011. The apocalypse had been and gone with a second dark age where everything had been burnt and annihilated. However, there is a rare discovery of boxes of discarded category romances found during an archaeological dig. These boxes are the only insight into the early second millenium. After a long investigation, these learned historians come to the summation that thousands of years ago melodrama was the stance of the normal couple, women only wore flowing, backless dresses and men had no chest hair yet had really well-developed pecs and abs.

When I suggested on Twitter that cover artists were briefed to not make men hirsute, fellow romance reader and tweeter, McVane, reasoned:

@McVane: @VaVeros Instructed? I'm surprised. I had always assumed it was cos hairy chests are bloody too difficult to paint/illustrate.

This makes a lot of sense to me and I have to agree though, if you can be bothered searching, there are some fab cover illustrations from the 70s and 80s that are exceptions such as Anne Weale’s Passage to Paxos.

So, after a long hiatus from browsing the eharlequin website, I thought I’d have a quick look at the upcoming releases. And what a pleasant surprise it was to see a hairy chested man on the occasional cover. No longer did the men have prepubescent hairless physiques  but they represented a (kinda) norm. The buffed, oiled (squick me out) hero can still be seen in all his flexed (eww) glory over at the Blaze line. But the other lines are that tad bit more realistic (bwahahaha), and in my opinion, sexier. Though I wish HMB had used a  hot hot hot Westmoreland rather than a boring old stetson on a chair on this book. For the most part, cover heroes are all in suits (yum) and regular clothes (yay) with the occasional half-dressed-in-the-bedroom or sunset-on-the-beach-in-slightly-rolled-up-trousers scenes (hmmm).

I recall that sometime last year Harlequin/Mills and Boon ran a Twitter survey asking reader preferences for hair or no hair and I would like to think that the current changes are a reflection of the responses that they received.

And, for what it’s worth, I’d love to see more black haired, blue eyed heroes wearing a suit with their shirt opened only slightly at the neck.

Procrastireading

Procrastiread / prô’kræstairid/ verb (procrastiread, procrastireading) – 1. to delay finishing a book: I procrastiread my last book for three days. 2. purposely reading slowly so as to not reach the end of a book: the reader was procrastireading because of an emotional connection with the characters of a book in such a deep-felt way that to end the book would result in severing the relationship. [Latin]  – procrastireader, n.

Have you ever found yourself reading a book whose characters endear you, become your friends, become your soulmates and envelop you into their lives to the point that soon you realise that you are half way through your book? And with every page you are getting closer to the end of your relationship with these people. Sure, you are the passive person in this relationship where all others are walking, talking and interacting with each other yet ignoring you. But you are the one who is setting the pace, you are the one that decides when the next words in their story will be read. You are the one that can evoke a procrastiread.

The other day, on Twitter, I took part in a short exchange where @stephjhodgson tweeted that she was stretching the ending of the Stieg Larsson series, @Wateryone asked me if there was a word for that.

I couldn’t find an Oxford Dictionary word or definition for this behaviour . But now, there is a word that we can all use – procrastireading/procrastiread

Over the years there have been few books that I have procrastiread. For the most part, if I am enjoying a book, I need to finish it quickly. I fly through it. I stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning with my obsessive need to know how it finishes despite the fact that I read the ending before I started the book and despite the fact that I will be a mess at work that day. But once in a while I am captured. I am enchanted by every word and phrase. I am lost within the book and I just don’t want it to finish. So I stretch out my reading experience over a number of days.

My most memorable procrastiread has been Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. Not only are the main characters Cal and Min perfectly matched with their sharp banter from the beginning of the story but their friends also became my friends. I felt captured by them. I was engaged and amused by the narrative and the dialogue. I was invested in these people and as I felt the thickness of the book’s pages in my right hand lessen, I realised that I no longer would have these wonderful friends with me. They would cease to exist. But not if I read only sections at a time. Slowly, savouring each exchange and every nuance. And once I came to the end of the story, I was thankful to Jennifer Crusie who gave me a snapshot epilogue of “Where are they now” for each wonderful character.

I really do miss them.

Have you ever found yourself procrastireading?